By Gilly Carr
Hedley Cecil Le Tissier was born on 17 May 1905 in Guernsey. According to his registration card, he served in the Royal Guernsey Militia in his youth, leaving with the rank of Private in 1925.
At the time of the registration of Islanders in October 1940, Le Tissier was married and worked as a greenhouse proprietor. His wife and children evacuated before the arrival of the Germans.
Le Tissier comes to our attention because of the unusual wealth of paperwork that his case and that of his colleagues provoked, now stored in Jersey Archives. From these we learn that he had been put in Guernsey prison on 15 January 1942 by the German police, accused of slaughtering cattle for sale on the Black Market. According to Le Tissier’s son, his father was involved in a business which involved ‘selling the meat in advance to those who wanted it (probably for Christmas), slaughtering the cow and leaving the money for the farmer to find in its place.’ Le Tissier’s son also suggested that the farmer, a friend of his father, was Jack de Garis of Seaview Farm, Kings Mills, and that he was therefore in on the operation.
Three other men were put in prison on 31 December 1941: Walter Nicolle, Stanley Lihou and Edgar Guille, who were also accused of similar offences. It was expected that they would be tried by the civil court and they was due to be defended by Advocate Martel of Martel and Le Pelley Advocates, as the local authorities had decreed, as had the Germans, against black market dealings.
The Germans decided to try the men by military court in Jersey, and so the four men were deported to that Island. Advocate Martel wrote on 11 January 1942 to Duret Aubin, the Attorney General of Jersey, to ask that the men might be defended in court by a Jersey advocate. In his letter, Martel revealed that he had planned to cite Article 43 of the Annex to the Hague Convention to argue that the men should be tried by the civil court. He quoted the relevant part to Aubin as ‘The ordinary courts of justice and the laws they administer should be suspended only when the refusal of the judges and magistrates to act …’ [rest of letter missing but the line is believed to finish ‘or have fled’]. Martel was particularly concerned for Le Tissier as ‘He is an elderly man – only speaks Guernsey French and cannot read or write’. As Le Tissier would have been 36 years old at this time, and appears to have been able to fill in his registration form, one wonders whether a younger Le Tissier relative took responsibility for the actions of an older relative, especially as Advocate Martel refers to a Sidney W Le Tissier, yet Hedley Le Tissier was the man charged in connection with this case. A further scrutiny of the records of Guernsey Prison reveals that a Sidney W Le Tissier, born in 1879, was indeed one of several men imprisoned at this time. The records show that he was imprisoned from 10-15 January 1942, and that Hedley Le Tissier entered prison on 15 January. There are also a number of other men listed in the prison, imprisoned for the same offence at this time. Perhaps only the four men discussed here were deported, and Hedley managed to convince the authorities to let himself be taken away rather than his elderly relative.
Three days later, a rather frantic Martel wrote again to Duret Aubin saying that the men would be sent to Jersey on 15 January 1942, and asking once again that they might be represented in court. He added that the men were prepared to pay a fine rather than be deported.
Duret Aubin replied to say that the men were being tried on 16 January 1942 and would be defended by Advocate Valpy, who was informed that the men had infringed an Order of the Military Commander in France relating to trade in rationed foodstuffs and forage dated 9 April 1941. On 20 January Duret Aubin wrote again to say that these were the first military prosecutions in Jersey for Black Market offences, although the Royal Court had charged three men the previous year of these offences, and they had been fined. He added that because the four men had admitted the facts of the case, Advocate Valpy had only been able to plead in mitigation of sentence, and the men had been sentenced to terms of imprisonment.
Thus, on 16 January 1942, Hedley Le Tissier was sentenced by the Court of the Field Command 515 to 5 months’ imprisonment and a 1,200 RM fine for ‘infringing the orders prohibiting traffic in rationed foodstuffs. In the case of non-payment of fine, 24 days’ additional imprisonment will be served.’
Le Tissier was kept in prison in Jersey until 24 March 1942, on which date he was deported to France. He was sent to Caen Prison, where he arrived the following day, on 25 March. On 9 July 1942 he was liberated on the expiry of his sentence. He was lucky – a week later the other men with whom he was sentenced were sent to Fort d’Hauteville Prison in Dijon in chains and handcuffs and were treated appallingly and starved in a large underground barrack room. Le Tissier’s experience in Caen was little better. According to his son’s memoirs, Le Tissier returned from Caen ‘in crutches, being so weak from malnutrition.’ While in Caen, Le Tissier learned to play cribbage to win food, as he had nobody to bring him food from the outside.
After the war, Le Tissier was reunited with his wife and four children, from whom he had been separated since they evacuated in 1940.
The Frank Falla Archive would like to thank Andre Le Tissier, grandson of Hedley Le Tissier, for getting in touch.
Hedley Le Tissier’s Occupation registration form, Island Archives, Guernsey.
Hedley Le Tissier’s charge sheet, copyright Island Archives, Guernsey, ref. CC14-05/119.
Correspondence surrounding the case against Hedley Le Tissier and his court charge sheets, Jersey Archives ref. D/Z/H6/3/23.
Hedley Le Tissier’s entry, political prisoner log book, Jersey Archives ref. D/AG/B7/7
Hedley Le Tissier’s prison record, Caen Prison, Calvados Archives ref. 1664 w 34.